Association between Phenylthiocarbamide Taste Perception and Falciparum Malaria Infection

Aim: To examine the association between the ability to taste PTC and falciparum malaria infection.

Study Design: A cross sectional study.

Place and Duration of Study: Ladoke Akintola University of Technology Teaching Hospital, Osun State General Hospital and Department of Biomedical Sciences, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, College of Health Sciences, Osogbo, Nigeria between March and November 2012. 

Methodology: A total of 567 individuals (276 males and 291 females) of age ≥16 years participated in this study after clinical examination and informed consent was obtained. The participants consisted of three groups. The first group consisted of 242 patients with symptomatic malaria. The second group consisted of 151 individuals with asymptomatic malaria while the third group (control group) consisted of 174 apparently healthy individuals without malaria as of the time of investigation. A sample of 2mL of blood was withdrawn from each participant for examination of malaria parasite. Thick and thin Giemsa stained blood smear were prepared for malaria parasite identification. Tasters and non-tasters were determined among the participants using phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) taste strips.

Results: The number of tasters among symptomatic malaria subjects (81.8%) and asymptomatic malaria subjects (80.1%) was significantly higher than controls (70.1%). There were significant differences between symptomatic malaria subjects and controls(p = 0.005), between asymptomatic malaria subjects and controls (p = 0.038) but insignificant difference between symptomatic and asymptomatic malaria subjects (p = 0.678).

Conclusion: Our findings show that among this study population, falciparum malaria is more associated with tasters than non-tasters. We observed a significant association between ability to taste PTC and falciparum malaria infection reiterating the fact that individuals’ responses to infection have a strong genetic basis. Understanding the genetics of a population can enhance better management and prevention of diseases.

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